One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine

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    Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Freedom Riders: a new front for civil rights

    Annexation of the West Bank into Israel is a constant threat by right wing parties wanting a “Greater Israel”. However abominable this may be, it would at least reveal the present reality in its true colours.

    In all but name, annexation took place decades ago. Above the notional zones and divisions sits one supreme ruling authority controlling one infrastructure, one economy and currency, all natural resources, borders, foreign policy, ID and the population Register, civil and criminal law, armed forces, policing, borders, communications and even school textbooks. Only a tiny percentage (2.7% by one count) is under the partial, subcontracted local governance of the Palestine Authority.

    Sooner or later, the illusion that there are two separate countries on either side of the historical Green Line will evaporate.

    Whether we’ll see a Berlin Wall “moment” or annexation,  the demands for civil rights in one country, for one law for all, for free movement and equal treatment, for a state of all its citizens, will grow louder. One Country will not come about because of a clever plan on paper, but because a mass nonviolent civil rights movement makes an unanswerable clamour for equality and justice, which is finally heard in fortress Israel.

    Two events this week strengthened this forecast.

    ♦ The final report of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine confirms that effectively it is all one country: the Tribunal declared that “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”

    ♦ The latest plans of the Palestinian resistance movement (the Palestinian Solidarity Coordination Committee, PSCC) are consciously modelled not on any national struggle or regional secessionist movement, but on the American Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s.

    They are to launch a series of Freedom Rides, aimed at boarding buses taking settlers from the West Bank into East Jerusalem. The first rides are scheduled for 15 November.

    The PSCC states that “The riders will attempt to board buses, but there is no precedent suggesting they will be allowed or prohibited. While it is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use Israeli public transportation in the West Bank, these lines are effectively segregated, since many of them pass through Jewish-only settlements, to which Palestinian entry is prohibited by a military decree.”

    The American civil rights activists, who rode segregated buses in the deep South, were iconic heroes of the movement. They faced brutality and arrest, and three of them were dragged off a bus and murdered. Their first ride was in May 1961, just over 50 years ago but never to be forgotten.

    The West Bank rides are being promoted as an act of civil disobedience protesting Israeli access restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank. But the tactic will surely resonate strongly in the USA and points to civil rights and integration as a core issue.

    The Russell Tribunal also concluded that in addition to apartheid, Israel was guilty of the crime of persecution (internationally recognised as a crime against humanity), including collective punishment, forcible re-location of the Bedouin people and the targeting of civilians during large-scale military operations.

    Palestinian issues were kept out of the J14 Social Justice movement on the grounds that they were “combat related”, so they were “national, not social”. But once civil rights demands become more prominent, justice for Palestinians will be harder to exclude from what should be one indivisible struggle for a fairer society.

    The Freedom Rides plan is a first sign that this is already on the table. We wish them safe passage!


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